THE BLOG

Judge Decides Guantanamo Prisoner's Health Problems Are His Own Fault

05/25/2011 12:30 pm ET

This week Judge John B. Bates of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia ruled once again that Guantanamo prisoner Abdul Hamid Al-Ghizzawi was not entitled to any medical care beyond what the government decides he needs, assuming that it is any at all, and that neither Al-Ghizzawi nor his attorney were, are or presumably ever will be, entitled to look at his medical records.... Judge Bates apparently has no interest in viewing the medical records himself because the government's word appears to be sacrosanct if not ex cathedra, and certainly not subject to challenge by some mere arbitrarily held prisoner. Judge Bates held that allowing Al-Ghizzawi access to his own records would allow him to "second guess" the medical care (that he is not receiving) at the base.... Of course it would also allow Al-Ghizzawi to show the court (and the world) that the government of the United States is deliberately lying about his health care... That, of course, is beside the point.

Judge Bates used a footnote to express irritation that a fair number of people concerned about Al-Ghizzawi's plight wrote to him... funny thing that, as a letter writing campaign by Scooter Libby fans and political allies to another federal judge on the very same court to try to keep old Scooter out of jail didn't seem to be a problem there. Judge Bates did say that he read all of the letters but was nonetheless resolving the matter "based on the law and the medical declarations that detail the care available to Al-Ghizzawi," and that does represent, in form at least, what the Judge did. He reviewed the affidavits from the government and its doctors that detailed the care that the government said was available to Al-Ghizzawi if only Al-Ghizzawi would avail himself of it. Judge Bates conveniently ignored the affidavits from Al-Ghizzawi's side of the case, notwithstanding that Al-Ghizzawi's affidavits absolutely disputed everything the government said and the government could not be bothered to provide the actual medical charts to demonstrate that anything it said was true. So Judge Bates simply based his decision on the medical declarations from the military that detailed its version of the care available to Al-Ghizzawi, and called it a day....

Counsel for Al-Ghizzawi respectfully suggests that it is not clear exactly what "law" the good judge was following: the law of war (in which case, heaven help us, the Geneva Conventions might just have to apply) or the laws of the United States regarding detention and custody of prisoners? Since Judge Bates seemingly elected not to follow either, I can only conclude that there must be some new brand of law that this particular counsel didn't learn in either law school or come across in 25 years of practice.

The good judge made no comment about the fact that the government refused to confirm or deny the diagnosis of AIDS (apparently acquired while in American custody) that was casually dropped on Al-Ghizzawi by base personnel that led to the current round of motions until the government was ordered to come clean. So once again without looking at the medical records, Judge Bates decided that those records (that he did not see or ask to be shown) must conclusively demonstrate that Al-Ghizzawi conjured up the AIDS claim in his head and under no circumstances might it either be valid... or perhaps that a facility notorious around the world for the abuse and torture of its prisoners might chose to play some sadistic game on one of its guests. Oh yes, and further proof of the appropriate and fully adequate care that Al-Ghizzawi is receiving is shown in the fact that when counsel pointed out in court papers that Al-Ghizzawi had no use for the eyeglasses for distance that he was provided for use in his 4x8 foot cell, but would have liked reading glasses. The government then claimed that it tried to haul Al-Ghizzawi back in and test his eyes again (for reading glasses...) this of course was after Al-Ghizzawi has not been able to read for want of glasses for almost one year.

The good news is that at least we all know that if Mr. Al-Ghizzawi dies, it is his own fault, because Judge Bates so held. Similarly, it is Al-Ghizzawi's fault that he can't swallow cold water and therefore can't take the pills given to him for diarrhea. It is also Al-Ghizzawi's own fault that he believed the lies that the medical staff told him when they told him he had AIDS and when they told him that a biopsy could cause permanent damage to his other vital organs... of course now that the military says that these things are not true, so we must conclude that Mr. Al-Ghizzawi must have been lying about everything, including presumably the fact that the military itself has found that there is no reason whatsoever for Al-Ghizzawi to even be held at Guantanamo as a prisoner (oh wait, I have that report in writing).....This fact led the United States Supreme Court to reconsider hearing an appeal brought by Guantanamo detainees, but that of course, is yet another story.

So, as the good judge said "the record is clear that adequate medical care is available and has either been provided or offered". And it is clear, of course, if one only reads the unverified, uncorroborated record as provided by the government without even bothering to see if the medical charts were consistent with that account, and if you conveniently don't give any credibility to Al-Ghizzawi's side because doing so might be inconvenient (and worse, perhaps justify a different outcome). Under such circumstances, the record certainly is clear.